The Whiteboard: Victor Wembanyama and the difference a point guard makes

It's becoming increasingly clear that the Spurs need to keep a reliable point guard on the floor with rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama.
San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns
San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs have experimented with a variety of lead ball-handlers this season and the results have been ... not great. Their inability to get the ball to 7-foot-4, human bucket Victor Wembanyama has become a running joke and they rank in the bottom five in each of the Offensive Four Factors except turnover percentage, in which they rank 22nd.

There have been rumors that they're looking for a steady point guard at the trade deadline and it's increasingly clear that playing with an actual point guard makes a huge difference for Wembanyama and everyone else.

A real point guard changes everything for Victor Wembanyama

The Spurs began the season with Jeremy Sochan as the starting point guard, eventually moving Malaki Branham in as well trying to grow both into primary ball-handlers. Sochan is a forward with excellent passing ability but far more experience as a connector than a primary initiator. Branham, a second-year guard from Ohio State, spent a lot of time with the ball in his hands in college but mostly as a scorer, averaging nearly five field goal attempts for every assist in his lone college season.

There is a track record of positive developmental value in letting non-point guard players get reps there, helping translate those experiences as they eventually move into a more complementary role — see Zach LaVine with the Timberwolves. But whatever developmental value the Spurs may be gaining for Branham and Sochan they may be sacrificing elsewhere.

Tre Jones, the only real point guard in the rotation, joined the starting lineup for the past seven games and his minutes have jumped from 23.5 per game to 30.2. He's been incredibly productive in this stretch, averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, shooting 61.8 from the field and 46.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Jones is playing extremely well although this might be above his actual ceiling. But what matters is that he is a reliable distributor who is comfortable in this role and knows how to get his team into their offensive sets and get the ball to the right places. Which, of course, has paid tremendous dividends for Victor Wembanyama.


% of Minutes




with Tre Jones





without Tre Jones





Wembanyama has played slightly less than half his minutes with Jones but he is far more productive and far more efficient in those minutes — scoring more, taking more shots and posting a significantly higher true shooting percentage.

Wembanyama is far from the only player who is benefiting from Jones' steady hand. Devin Vassell's effective field goal percentage is 3.5 percentage points higher when playing with Jones, Sochan's is 5.3 percentage points higher.

As a team, the Spurs score about 7.5 points per 100 possessions more with Jones on the floor and their effective field goal percentage is 2.5 percentage points higher.

Popovich seems to have recognized the adjusted his calculus and it shouldn't be surprising to see Jones in the starting lineup consistently and on the court a lot more over the course of the season. But he's still playing just over 30 minutes per game meaning there is still plenty of motivation for the Spurs to chase another point guard at the trade deadline.

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